LGBT rights in Greece

This article is concerned with the situation in the modern Greek state. For information about homosexuality in antiquity, see homosexuality in ancient Greece.
LGBT rights in Greece

Location of  Greece  (dark green)

 in Europe  (light green & dark grey)
 in the European Union  (light green)   [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1951,
age of consent is equalized as of 2015
Gender identity/expression Yes (sterilisation not required for the change of legal gender since 2016 court ruling) [1]
Military service Yes,[2] though psycho-sexual problems can be used to avoid the draft.[3]
Discrimination protections All anti-gay discrimination explicitly banned. Hate crimes laws covering all areas (incl. sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics) (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
Cohabitation agreements since 2015
Adoption Adoption not allowed for same sex couples,[4] Single homosexuals are allowed to adopt [5]

Laws concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people have evolved significantly over the last years and have established Greece as one of the most liberal countries in Southeast Europe. Nonetheless, LGBT persons in Greece may still face legal and social challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Greece since 1951. Anti-discrimination laws in employment exist since 2005. Since then anti-discrimination laws have been extended to other spheres including gender identity. Hate speech and hate crime legislation is one of the most rigid and comprehensive in Europe.[6] In 2015, civil unions (Σύμφωνο Συμβίωσης) were legalised for same-sex couples, making households headed by same-sex couples eligible for many but not all legal protections available to married opposite-sex couples.

Gay culture is vibrant in Athens, and particularly in the gay neighbourhood of Gazi, in Thessalonica and the islands. Mykonos is known worldwide for its gay scene. There are four gay pride parades held annually, in Athens, Thessalonica, Patras and Heraklion the capital of the island of Crete. Athens Pride 2015 saw record participation, and the attendance of many public figures including the President of the Hellenic Parliament and the Mayor of Athens.

According to a 2016 report carried out by ILGA-Europe, which assesses LGBT rights in European countries, Greece ranks 15th (out of 49 countries) in Europe.[7]

Law and policy

Same-sex sexual activity

Male homosexual practice was decriminalized in 1951. Lesbians were not mentioned or acknowledged in the Greek criminal code. Article 347 of the Penal Code outlawed male prostitution and provided for a higher age of consent of 17 for male homosexual acts. However, this provision was abolished by Article 68 of the Law nr. 3456 of 24 December 2015, effectively resulting in equalization of the age of consent and the legalization of male prostitution, subject to existing laws on the regulation of prostitution.[8]

Same-sex relationships

The Greek constitution provides no definition of marriage. It does stipulate that, like motherhood and childhood, it must be under the protection of the State.[9]

The former government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis New Democracy was opposed to same-sex marriage. While the New Democracy-led government had introduced legislation that offered several rights to unmarried couples, this explicitly included only civil unions for same-sex couples.[10]

The National Human Rights Committee proposed a registry that would cover both same-sex couples and unmarried heterosexual ones[11] and the Greek group OLKE announced its intention to sue Greek municipalities that refuse to marry gay couples.

The Greek government under George Papandreou, leader of Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), was preparing legislation for same-sex registered partnerships, which, however never took place, as LGBT groups believed that they were going to be insufficient.[12][13]

In November 2013, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of the plaintiffs in the case Valianatos and others vs. Greece and condemned the exemption of same-sex couples from the option of civil unions; the restriction of civil unions solely to opposite-sex couples was thus deemed non-convincing and the state was obliged to give a 5000 euro compensation to each one of the plaintiffs.[14]

Although there is no official recognition of same-sex couples, a 1982 law that legalized civil marriage between "persons", without specifying gender, acted as a test-case for same sex marriage. On 3 June 2008, the mayor of Tilos, Anastasios Aliferis, married two homosexual couples, two lesbians and two gay men, citing the legal loophole. He was heavily criticized by clergymen of the Church of Greece, which in the past had also opposed the introduction of civil marriage. Justice Minister Sotirios Hatzigakis declared the Tilos marriages "invalid" and Supreme Court prosecutor Georgios Sanidas warned Mayor Aliferis of the legal repercussions of his "breach of duty", but he said he had "no intention of annulling the marriages".[15][16][17] In May 2009 the marriage was officially annulled by the authorities.

Ιn December 2015, the Greek parliament reintroduced a law draft that would expand civil unions to same-sex couples. Reactions varied from positive to negative, with many members of the Greek church condemning the proposition.[18][19] Most notably, Archbishop Ieronymos called homosexuality "a diversion from life", metropolitan Anthimos declared that "Not even animals have such dispositions", metropolitan Seraphim said "Pawns of the international zionism! The masculofeminine is being created!" whereas metropolitan Amvrosios stated "Spit on them! They're disgraceful! They're nature's abominations!"[20] The latter, paired with Amvrosios' initiative to have the bells of the churches in his metropolis ring mournfully, stirred up much controversy, the result of which was a kiss-in protest by two LGBT activists dressed up in clergy clothes in front of the building of the Athens metropolis.[21][22][23]

Finally, on 23 December, the draft concerning the enriched and improved civil union legislation was passed (193 yes-56 no) with a significant absence of 51 MPs, making Greece the 26th European country to adopt similar laws. Simultaneously, anachronistic article 347, criminalizing acts of "unnatural lewdness" between men was abolished, equalizing the age of consent for sex between men (now standing at 15 years of age both for heterosexual and homosexual sexual intercourse) . Furthermore, Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, while debating the law in Parliament, issued an apology to the LGBT community for the years of discrimination they had faced.[24] Civil marriage between same-sex individuals is still not permitted,[25][26] Same-sex couples also may not adopt children.[27]

In December 2016, the Greek Parliament passed a bill expanding the rights of same-sex couples and ensuring equal protection in workplaces regardless of gender, religion or sexual orientation.[28]

Discrimination and hate speech

Since 2005, anti-gay discrimination in the workplace is prohibited. Under the anti-racism bill which was submitted to parliament in September 2014, the law would provide protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.[29]

While there has been considerable legal progress, conservative social mores still hold some influence. Public displays of affection between same-sex couples are widely frowned upon and the Orthodox Church has often denounced homosexuality as a sin and "defect of human nature."[30]

Greek law protects gender identity. According to law 3896 of 2010, discrimination on the basis of gender identity is considered equal to discrimination on the basis of sex and thus all laws regarding the latter also cover discrimination on the basis of gender identity.[31] Furthermore, transgender individuals have the right to change the sex on their birth certificate with an application to a court of first instance that is always accepted by default.[32]

In September 2014 the law against racism was amended. The changes stipulated that hate speech and violence against LGBT individuals or groups would be punished with imprisonment for 3 months to 3 years and a fine of €5.000 to €20.000.[33] If the actions have led to a crime, the penalty is increased by 6 months more of imprisonment and a fine of €15.000 to €30.000 extra. If the final imprisonment exceeds 1 year, then the convict loses his/her political rights for 1 to 5 years. If the offender is a public worker then the imprisonment and the fines are raised even more. If the offender was committing the above representing an organisation or company, they are also fined. Entities in the public domain are, however, excluded from this last rule. This has led to criticism since the churches are also legal entities of the public domain, thereby excluding them from any consequences after the conviction of a priest of theirs. Furthermore, public procecutors are given the freedom to move against the offenders even without a lawsuit from the victims, and if the victims file a lawsuit, they are allowed to do it free of charge, in contrast to the common practice.

Since 24 December 2015, Greece prohibits discrimination and hate crimes based on sex characteristics, which are among the strongest laws on the subject in Europe.[8][34][35] On 2 December 2016 further anti-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation, gender and religion in the workplace were passed by the Hellenic Parliament in a 201-21 vote with 5 abstaining and 73 absent.[35][36]

Legal Gender change procedure

Since July 20, 2016, a person who wants to change their gender on the Registry Office files is no longer obligated to already have done a sex reassignment surgery, after a decision of the County Court of Athens.[37]

Social conditions

Gay culture

Athens has a large number of LGBT associations and a developing gay village in the Gazi, Athens neighborhood. A gay pride event, the 'Athens Pride' and an international Gay and Lesbian film festival, the 'Outview', are held annually.

There is also a large gay scene in Thessaloniki with gay/lesbian bars/clubs and several friendly mixed venues, and several LGBT organisations. In June 2012 the city got its own annual pride event (Thessaloniki Pride). One of the most notable events in Thessaloniki, concerning LGBT rights, is the attempt to raise a 20m long banner, urging people to boycott the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, on the city's most famous landmark, the White Tower. The attempt was quickly stopped by the local police, but the event was advertised in online media.

The gay scene in the island of Myconos and the lesbian scene in Eressos, Lesbos are famous internationally.

Athens Pride

The Athens Pride is an annual LGBT Pride parade and festival held every June (since June 2005) in the center of Athens, Greece. It has been held 12 times:

Thessaloniki Pride

Thessaloniki staged its annual pride event for the first time in 22–23 June 2012, following Mayor Boutaris's promise to back a public LGBT event in the city. The first Thessaloniki Pride festival enjoyed massive popular support[38] from the city, its periphery and the region, which was a heavy blow for the city's metropolitan Anthimos, who had called believers to react.[39]

One year later, in one of his announcements just a few days before the pride event of 2013, he stated that, the Holy Metropolis of Thessaloniki would once again have to tolerate the sad and unacceptable festival of the homosexuals who want to "celebrate their sickness in a carnival sort of way". He also asked parents to keep their children and themselves away from "such pointless and unnatural celebrations". However, many families were present and the two-day festival ended in a festive atmosphere with many parties, galleries and celebrations all around the city.[40] The 2nd Thessaloniki Pride was dedicated to freedom of any kind, including the freedom of gender expression.

In 2014 Thessaloniki was the European Youth Capital and the 3rd Thessaloniki Pride was included to its official programme.[41] Accordingly, it was dedicated to LGBT youth and their families. By general assessment the 2014 pride event was a major success, with the participation of 10,000 people in the parade, along with the city mayor and a block of diplomats.[42] Some described it as best LGBT pride festival that Thessaloniki has ever had.[43]

That year, vigil masses took place along with gatherings of believers, where priests made an outcry over the "desecration of holy Thessaloniki", the "imposition of Islam and homosexuality by the New World Order, the gay pride events which are part of a Western conspiracy, the "appointment of homosexual male and female bishops and protested over the victory of Conchita Wurst at the Eurovision Song Contest.[42][44] Metropolitan Anthimos once again made similar comments about it in an interview, deeming it as "disgraceful", "challenging", "a perversion of the human existence", adding that the Church orders to "Not give what is holy to dogs". He also claimed that the use of the term "festival" for the event is erroneous.[45]

The festival has been held five times.

Crete Pride

The first gay pride of Crete was held on 26–27 June 2015 in Heraklion, becoming the island's first "Festival for Gender and Sexuality Liberation Visibility".[46]

Patras Pride

The first gay pride of Patras, the third biggest city in Greece, held in 2016.[47]


Discrimination by the Greek Church

Responding to government proposals in 2008 to introduce legal rights for cohabiting couples, Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens, the leader of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece, suggested that "There is a need to change with the time". It is unclear, however, whether this view applied to same-sex couples, particularly as the Church has previously opposed gay rights in general and civil union laws in particular.[10]

Following government talks in November 2013 regarding the legalisation of civil unions for homosexual couples, the Metropolitan of Piraeus Seraphim voiced vehement opposition against it, threatening that he can and will excommunicate any MPs who should vote for it. Moreover, he added that the bill "legalises the corruption of the human existence and physiology and cements the psychopathological diversion that is homosexuality". Additionally, he mentioned that such movements constitute "significant offenses of public decency" by sending out messages of "perverted sexual behaviours" to young people that "torpedo the foundations of family and society".[48]

In August 2014, during discussions about the long-awaited vote for an anti-racism bill, several Metropolitans voiced their opposition to it due to certain articles pertinent to the criminalization of hate speech against, among others, homosexuals, with increased penalties for civil servants (members of the clergy included) who engage in it during their duties.[49] The Metropolitan of Piraeus Seraphim accused the Greek PM Antonis Samaras of "selling his soul for a few extra months in office", criticized the draft law for "the introduction of other sexual orientations and other gender identities", the fact that the "psychopathological aversion and the inelegant mimicking of the other sex" would be protected by Greek law and compared homosexuality with paedophilia and bestiality.[50]

The Metropolitan of Gortyna Ieremias, citing Bible passages, called homosexuals "dogs", protested the fact that, under the new bill, "several prophets and Saints would be regarded as racists", characterized it as a "horrible and deplorable" law while adding a homophobic word play. At the same time, the Metropolitan of Konitsa Andreas rejected the bill under the claim that it aims to "cover the perversion that is homosexuality".[51] The religious reaction eventually resulted in Antonis Samaras accepting the church's objections and not including articles relative to the protection of homosexuals in the bill. Moreover, the PM reassured the religious leaders who dissaproved of the bill that, "as long as he is in office, there's no way the parliament will expand civil unions to same-sex couples".[52][53]

In September 2014, provisions on the criminalization of hate speech towards LGBT individuals were approved (civil unions for same-sex couples were not). The criminalization of LGBT-oriented hate speech led to the once more furious reaction of Metropolitan Seraphim who called the law "an oppresion of the Greek Justice system" and "the cancellation of the freedom of speech" as imposed by "the nationalistic system and the New World Order instructors".[54]

Discrimination by media and public bodies

Several issues have been raised about the Greek media and their frequently discriminatory attitude towards LGBT individuals such as through the use of censorship, something partly attributed to the regulation authority, or Greek National Council for Radio and Television (NCRTV). Below is a list of some homophobic/transphobic incidents by the Greek media and other companies and bodies.

Homophobia by politicians

Far right homophobic violence

It is reported that, following the rise of the Neo-Nazi far right party Golden Dawn, homophobic and transphobic incidents have multiplied.[74] Apart from homophobic comments by the party such as the theory that gay men lack manliness,[75] their calling the German minister Guido Westerwelle "Madam" because of his being openly gay [76] etc., the party also actively urges its supporters to not accept homosexuality. A very infamous statement by the party addressed to gay men and women is "After the immigrants, you're next".[77] Golden Dawn's homophobic opinions have given way to a sharp increase in homophobic attacks,[78][79] whereas allegations that members of the Greek police force cooperate with Golden Dawn members [80] may explain why several trans women were recently arrested during the Thessaloniki pride for no reason by the police, brutally attacked and illegally detained on the grounds of "keeping the city clean".[81][82] Colour Youth, a non-governmental organisation, reported 101 incidents of homophobic and transphobic violence for 2009-2015, with 75 of them in 2015. Five of the attacks cause serious bodily harm, while the majority concerned verbal attacks.[83]

Public opinion

Support for same-sex civil partnership (May 2015 poll)

  For (70%)
  Against (20%)
  Don't know (10%)

Support for same-sex marriage (May 2015 poll)

  For (56%)
  Against (35%)
  Don't know (9%)

Support for same-sex adoption (May 2015 poll)

  Against (56%)
  For (30%)
  Don't know (14%)

A survey among Greek MPs, conducted in 2003 and presented by the Hellenic Homosexual Community (EOK), raised the issue of recognising taxation, inheritance and other legal rights to same-sex couples. The results of the survey showed that 41% of parliamentarians surveyed favored granting such rights while 55% were against it. Among PASOK MP's, 55% were favorable, compared to just 27% of New Democracy MPs. The party with the highest MP favorable responses was Synaspismos (67%) while the majority of Communist Party MPs abstained. MPs favorable responses were higher among women, younger and Athenian MPs.

A study among Greek students of the Schools of Health and Welfare professions (social work, nursing & medicine) in Iraklion, Crete published in 2006 surveyed their attitudes towards male homosexuality. Two scales were used and translated into Greek along with several questions that formed a self-completed questionnaire. The main findings showed that there were differences among the schools in terms of homophobic expression and that "the main predictors influencing homophobia score were: willingness to defend and protect gay rights, conversations with gay individuals, religiosity, politicization and having gay friends".[84]

A Eurobarometer survey published in December 2006 showed that 15% of Greeks surveyed supported same-sex marriage and 11% recognised same-sex couple's right to adopt.[85] These figures were considerably below the 25-member European Union average of 44% and 32% respectively and placed Greece in the lowest ranks of the European Union along with Romania, Latvia, Poland, Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria.[86]

A Eurobarometer survey published in January 2007 ("Discrimination in the European Union"), showed that 77% of Greeks believed that being gay or lesbian in their country 'tends to be a disadvantage', while the European Union (EU25) average was 55%. 68% of Greeks agreed that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was 'widespread' in Greece (EU25: 50%), and 37% that it was more widespread in than 5 years before (EU25: 31%). 84% of Greeks also reported not having any gay or lesbian friends or acquaintances (EU25: 65%).[87]

A Kapa Research (major Greek polling firm) survey on behalf of the Greek "Institute of Psychological & Sexual Health" published in the Greek newspaper Ta Nea on 20 September 2010[88] showed that 63.9% of Greeks agree with the legalization of same-sex partnerships and 24.1% disagree; as for the legalization of same-sex marriage, 38.5% of Greeks agree and 51.8% disagree.[89]

In June 2013 The Pew Research Center released data where they conducted surveys of respondents in some 40 countries on the question of whether the respondents believed their society should or should not accept homosexuality. Pew Research questioners scientifically asked respondents in Greece this question and found that amongst those asked, a majority 53% of those Greek respondents believed their society should accept homosexuality, while 40% of the respondents believed that society should not accept homosexuality. Amongst those Greeks surveyed between the ages of 18 and 29 years of age support for society accepting homosexuality was at a higher 66% than the overall 53%. For those respondents aged 30 to 49 support was too at a higher 62%, but a lower 40% for those respondents 50 years and older.[90]

On 11 April 2015 the newspaper To Vima published a survey conducted by Kapa Research which showed that 39.3% of respondents supported same sex marriage while 50.5% were against it. On the same survey 65.6% of respondents agreed with the statement that homosexuality should be accepted by society while 28.2% believed that homosexuality should not be accepted by society [91][92]

On 12 May 2015 Greece had first survey ever showing majority support for same sex marriage at 56%, while 35% opposed it. The survey was based on 1,431 respondents and was conducted by Focus Bari. A very high percentage of respondents (76%) agreed that homosexuality should be accepted by society while 70% agreed that civil partnerships should be extended to gay couples. However respondents remained sceptical about adoption from same sex couples with only 30% supporting it while 56% opposed it. Only 14% believed that homosexuality is a mental disorder and 54% stated that stricter laws should exist to punish homophobic crimes (hate speech in particular).[93]

In December 2015, a poll conducted by the University of Macedonia during the week before the Civil Union Bill became law found that 56% of the public agreed with the law, while 29% strongly opposed it.[94]

Answer Ages 18–29 Ages 30–49 Ages 50 or higher Men Women Total
Yes 66% 62% 40% 47% 59% 53%
No n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 40%

[The 2013 PewResearch Centre report. Question: Should society accept homosexuality?]

Summary table

Topic Status
Same-sex sexual activity legal (Since 1951)
Age of consent equalized (Since 2015)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment (stricter anti-discrimination laws apply since 2016) (Since 2005)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services (stricter anti-discrimination laws apply since 2016) (Since 2014)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech), (stricter anti-discrimination laws apply since 2016) (Since 2014)
Anti-discrimination laws covering gender identity in all areas (stricter anti-discrimination laws apply since 2016) (Since 2014)
Discrimination and hate crimes based on sex characteristics prohibited (Since 2015)
Gay panic defence abolished (de facto, under hate crimes legislation) (Since 2015)
Same-sex marriage legal/recognised
Cohabitation agreements for same-sex couples (cohabitation agreements grant all the rights of marriage since 2016) (Since 2015)
Joint adoption by same sex couples (To be considered)
Stepchild adoption by same sex couples (To be considered)
LGBT individuals are allowed to adopt (any individual may petition to adopt) (Since 1996)
Access to IVF for lesbian couples (To be considered)
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples (To be considered)
Homosexuals allowed to serve openly in the military (strict anti-discrimination laws in the military since 2016) (Since 2002)
Sexual orientation conversion therapy banned by law (To be considered)
Right to change legal gender (sterilisation and sex reassignment surgery not required for gender change after 2016 court ruling) (Since 2010)
Third gender option on birth certificates (Under consideration)
Homosexuality, Transexuality and Transvestism declassified as illnesses (Since 1990, 2010 and 2016 respectively)
MSMs allowed to donate blood

See also


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